Hazelnuts have become synonymous with Oregon and Oregon agriculture; take a trek down Interstate 5 through the Willamette Valley and you’ll see hazelnut orchards lining the roadway from Wilsonville to Roseburg. The prodigious modern hazelnut industry exists due to decades of dedication and innovation by growers, processors and researchers.
In this month’s blog, we are taking you through a brief history of Oregon hazelnuts and examining some of the seminal moments that shaped the current Oregon hazelnut landscape.
1858- The first hazelnut tree is planted in Oregon by Sam Strictland in Scottsburg.
1871- Felix Gillet, a nurseryman in Nevada City, California, introduced the first cultivated varieties. Between 1885 and 1905, he introduced many key varieties, including Barcelona, DuChilly, and Daviana that formed the foundation of the industry, and many of which are still grown today.
1903- Oregon’s first commercial hazelnut orchard is planted by George Dorris. The Dorris Ranch, located in Springfield, is still producing hazelnuts to this day!
1915– The Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia is launched. This a grower-led and organized group that collaborates to share ideas and best practices for hazelnut orchards.
1989- The hazelnut is declared Oregon’s “official state nut.”
2011- After decades of intense research and breeding, EFB-resistant varieties are released to growers for the first time, thus turning the tide against Eastern Filbert Blight and kickstarting the current industry boom. These varieties, including Jefferson, Yamhill and PollyO, now account for a majority of the trees in Oregon.
2018- Oregon hazelnuts surpassed 50,000 tons harvested for the first time!